Assessing Gregor Blanco’s Value as a Fourth Outfielder

Gregor Blanco is always ready to step in for the San Francisco Giants. In the past few years, Blanco has entered the regular season as the fourth outfielder. In past offseasons, the Giants have either found another outfielder that is more of an offensive threat, which makes them a stronger candidate for a starting role and moves Blanco to the fourth outfielder role, or the Giants have found someone to platoon with Blanco.

Blanco enters 2015 in the same situation, as the Giants signed Nori Aoki in the offseason, and Aoki will be the everyday outfielder.

However, with Hunter Pence‘s injury, Blanco will now be the Opening Day right fielder. This won’t be a major transition for him though, as he has experience in AT&T Park’s tricky right field and he’s filled in for injured starters many times before.

With Melky Cabrera‘s suspension in 2012, with Angel Pagan‘s injuries in 2013 and 2014 (and now in this year’s Spring Training), with Michael Morse‘s struggles defensively, Blanco has always been there to pick up the pieces and start whenever he’s needed.

Blanco might not have overly impressive stats as a starting outfielder, but as a fourth outfielder, he is an incredibly valuable asset to the Giants.

He has an incredible ability to stay ready and focused in whatever role he will play, whether he’s a late-inning defensive replacement, whether he’s a spot starter, or whether he’s a consistent starter. This is an extremely underrated and underappreciated skill that not many players possess.

Underappreciated. That describes Blanco perfectly.

Blanco possesses highly valuable skills for a fourth outfielder such as his reliability and his ability to play all three outfield spots. Blanco appeared in 141 games in 2012 and in 2013 and 146 games in 2014. That’s rare for a typical MLB player but even more rare for a “fourth outfielder.”

Blanco can not only play all three outfield spots, but he also plays great defense at all three positions, even while playing in a tough outfield such as right field at AT&T Park. He has the speed to play center field, and he has the instincts and strong, accurate arm to play any outfield position.

Blanco might be somewhat of a forgotten man to some Giants fans, but the best player on the Giants, Buster Posey, greatly appreciates Blanco and what he’s contributed to the Giants’ three World Series titles. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle with the report:

“As much as Gregor has put in the last three years,” catcher Buster Posey said, “I don’t know if he’s the prototypical bench guy.”

“The thing that stands out for me is the versatility, the ability to play all three positions at such a high level,” Posey said. “He’s always ready. Whether he’s playing or not, he’s ready to go. Great attitude, always. Obviously a big part of the success we’ve had.”

Brandon Crawford and Matt Cain agreed with Posey and also praised Blanco, according to Shea:

Of all the outfielders in camp, Blanco would be trusted the most to defend Pence’s position. He’d have Matt Cain’s vote. Right field is where Blanco played when making his famous diving catch to preserve Cain’s perfect game in June 2012.

“We forget sometimes he was the right fielder that day,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said, “because he was basically in center field when he caught it. There aren’t many guys who play all three positions that well.”

Cain added, “He might not play for a while, and his defensive skills are on all the time. That’s rare to come upon. He doesn’t lose his step.”

Blanco will be called upon yet again while Pence is out with his injury, and he might even have to fill in at center field once Pence comes back if Pagan is still dealing with back issues that haunted him last season and have kept him out of Spring Training games recently.

But Blanco will be ready, as he always is. Blanco said that he prepares himself for every situation, and that’s why he’s so valuable to the Giants. He will be prepared no matter what, and he will fill in admirably, no matter what adversity he faces.

Blanco is truly the ideal fourth outfielder because of the various skills that he brings.